Dani Alves eats the banana which started a global movement
The world of football has been going banana-crazy over the past few days in an inspiring show of support for Barcelona full-back Dani Alves, who was racially abused at the weekend when a thug in the crowd threw a banana at him.
Alves's response was fantastic: he simply picked up the banana, ignored the message of hate it represented, and took a bite as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
That small gesture prompted an outpouring of support from figures across the world of football, kicked off by his Barca team-mate Neymar who posted on Twitter a picture of himself eating a banana with the hashtag #wereallmonkeys.
Neymar's tweet started a tidal swell of support, with thousands of people tweeting pictures of themselves eating bananas and repeating the same hashtag in a magnificent and spontaneous backlash against the plague of racism that still infests football.
It seemed spontaneous at the time, that is - but reports in Spanish newspaper AS and Brazilian magazine Veja have revealed that it was in fact a very carefully-choreographed campaign dreamt up by a marketing agency.
The plan devised by Brazilian agency Loducca was that the next time either Alves or Neymar had a banana thrown at them on the pitch, they would pick it up and take a bite on camera in order to kick-start the social media campaign.
It just so happened that, with Neymar off injured, Alves was the first of the pair to have the banana thrown by a Villarreal fan, on Sunday night - and thus the global campaign got the impetus it needed. Neymar's pre-prepared tweet went live within minutes of the incident, and almost instantly the twin hashtags #wereallmonkeys (and its Spanish translation, #somostodosmacacos) were trending on the social media site.
Guga Ketzer, a partner at Loducca, explained the thinking behind the campaign to Brazilian magazine Veja.
"An action is worth more than a thousand words," he said. "A gesture needs no translation, and that's what we're seeing as this has gone viral globally."
Ketzer added that the plan was ideally for Neymar - the higher-profile of the two stars - to eat the banana, "but in the end it was Alves, and that works just the same…
"The best way of stopping prejudice is to rid it of its power in order that the racist act cannot be repeated," he added.
"That is what happened when we created the hashtag #somostodosmacacos, and the gesture of eating a banana was transformed into a movement."
The agency were so sure that the campaign would catch on that they had already ordered thousands of "#somostodosmacacos" anti-racism t-shirts to sell at €25 a pop.
Such cynical manipulation of social media does leave a bitter taste in the mouth - particularly given the t-shirt cash-in which is following.
But in this case surely the ends justifies the means: monkey chants and banana-throwing have been endemic in Spanish sport for years, but the Alves banana incident has finally persuaded authorities to do something about it.
Setting such a stern example can only help the fight against racism - even if the act which prompted it was not a player's spur-of-the-moment response, but the brainchild of a clever marketing man.
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- Dani Alves